Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie wants his younger players to go out at Bridgehaugh today and “make a statement” in their friendly against Northampton Saints.
In midweek, at his first media briefing since arriving in the country last Sunday, the New Zealander was keen to point out that he had received good reports regarding the club’s fringe and BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy men.
And the reports were obviously favourable enough to get some of them game time today at Stirling County’s ground, with the average age of the starting XV just 22.
Adam Hastings leads a group of seven players who are set to make their first appearances in a Warriors shirt in the extended squad of 28.
Hastings, 21, the summer signing from Bath and son of Scotland legend Gavin, starts at stand-off while Academy recruit Robbie Nairn, 20, also starts on the wing. The duo know each other well having played together at George Watson’s College and then at age-grade level for Scotland.
It will also be intriguing to see Hastings link up with George Horne, the electric scrum-half. From the bench, Academy players Grant Stewart, Hamilton Burr, George Stokes, Charlie Shiel and Stafford McDowell could all play for Glasgow for the first time.
Kiran McDonald, who signed a pro deal in the summer after a spell at Hull, and Scotland Sevens cap Robert Beattie both played in the Warriors’ pre-season game against Canada ‘A’ at Bridgehaugh last year and are once again involved.
Former Stirling County player Adam Ashe captains the team from No 8 while Jamie Bhatti, Scott Cummings and Matt Fagerson celebrate their Scotland call-ups with starts.
With Stuart Hogg out for an extended period through injury, Rory Hughes is the first man given the chance to audition for the No 15 jersey under Rennie’s watchful eye.
The head coach said: “I signed 12 months ago, so it’s great to be here and get the chance to finally see the boys in action this weekend.
“It’s great to take the game to Bridgehaugh. I want to make sure that we interact with people right across our region and show that we’re more than just a Glasgow side.
“These boys have been working really hard for the last couple of months, so it’s a good opportunity for them.
“We’re treating this game like a trial and it’s a chance for the younger guys to make a bit of a statement.
“We did a fitness test on Monday and 17 of the boys recorded personal bests, so I can’t speak highly enough of how hard everyone has worked. Northampton will ask some serious questions of us, but that’s what we need.”
Saints travel north with an extended squad of 31 and their former Scotland age-grade cap Mitch Eadie starts at No 8.
Another Scot, centre Rory Hutchinson, is among the replacements for the Aviva Premiership side, as is England skipper Dylan Hartley.
They are skippered by England cap Ben Foden from full-back while Piers Francis, formerly on Edinburgh Rugby’s books, starts at stand-off.